A Sweet, but Talentless Virgin Finds Love in ‘Adult World’

by Trey Hock on February 28, 2014

in Print Reviews,Reviews

You know what? College life is easy, and the real world is hard but rewarding. That’s about all we learn in the new film Adult World a by-the-numbers college-to-adulthood story. If it weren’t for a capable cast that includes John Cusack, Emma Roberts, and Cloris Leachman, ‘Adult World’ would just be another tired indie coming of age story.

Amy (Emma Roberts), a 22 year-old virgin and energetic graduate in creative writing, must find a “real” job when her supportive but cash strapped parents stop funding her poetry submissions. Amy’s inexperience keeps her from landing any job except for that of a sales clerk at Adult World, an adult book and novelty store.

Amy struggles to continue her writing career. She even talks her way into working with Rat Billings (John Cusack), a once famous local poet, but her immature goals of fame and fortune from a poetry career seem unrealistic and incompatible with her job at Adult World.

That’s really about it. The story is just another one in a long list of tales of an inexperienced young woman who gains guidance and finds her sexuality through the interactions with the men in her life. Amy struggles to come to grip with her attraction to her coworker, Alex (Evan Peters), but just as you think her world may be crashing down around her, Amy embraces the love that has been right there all along.

Adult World does offer some subtle subversion to the tale of creative pursuits – we might not have the talent to excel at writing, painting, or the things we do that bring us joy. These pursuits may never become our jobs.

Director Scott Coffey and writer Andy Cochran probably understand Amy’s compromises to some extent, since both have worked in television and film as supporting actors and television writers. It seems that Coffey’s and Cochran’s ambitions, like many in the industry, lie at the helm of a feature film.

The problem with the tale that Cochran and Coffey have crafted is their choice to place a woman in the role of the central character. Amy fails to sustain herself through her own means. She is an immature and possibly talentless writer, and only through the kindness of those around her does she find love and acceptance.

Had this been a young man this might have been a somewhat fresh take, almost like a modern twist on The Graduate. We’ve seen films about young women, who yearn for greatness only to fall short and fall into the arms of the men around them. Since many of the women I know in creative fields are capable, passionate, and highly successful, the trope of the young woman, talentless, but charming, doesn’t even bother me any more. It just kind of bores me.

The cast makes the most of the script, and to the casual viewer, Adult World may be passable entertainment, but only because John Cusack, Emma Roberts, and Evan Peters are charming in spite of the story that surrounds their characters.

In addition to contributing to Scene-Stealers, Trey makes short films and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute. Follow him here:

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